On Monday, President Anthony Carmona broke with tradition for the first time since Independence.
Unlike former Governor Generals and President, Carmona publicly announced the appointment of Master Ralph Doyle to the Advisory Committee on the Power of Pardon.
This has never been done before. In the past, the public was told that the Committee comprised of the Minister of National Security, chairman, the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and four unnamed members.
These four persons were never revealed to the public, although the President appoints them after consultations with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
On Monday, the Office of the President invited the media to witness the appointment of three members of the Public Service Commission and Doyle to the Mercy Committee. Carmona even made a speech on the appointment of Doyle and the importance of his choice.
The law is silent on this, but in the past, from 1962 to now, the four other members of the Committee remained silent. When he was Attorney General, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj defended the secrecy, saying these four “non-office holders” could be targeted by criminal elements.
No member of the Mercy Committee has been harmed in the past, although the legal action was taken by condemned prisoners seeking reliefs against the Committee. There is now precedent where a condemned man can file judicial review proceedings against the Mercy Committee – Lewis v the Attorney General (Jamaica)
With the five-year guideline laid down by the Privy Council in Pratt and Morgan, and with the judgment of the Law Lords in Lewis, countries in the Caribbean have been unable to carry out the death penalty in recent times.
WHAT THE CONSTITUTION SAYS
Power of Pardon, etc.
87.- 1. The President may grant to any person a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions, respecting any offenses that he may have committed. The power of the President under this subsection may be exercised by him either before or after the person is charged with any offense and before he is convicted thereof.
2. The President may-
a. grant to any person convicted of any offense against the law of Trinidad and Tobago a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions;
b. grant to any person a respite, either indefinite or for a specified period, from the execution of any punishment imposed on that person for such an offense;
c. substitute a less severe form of punishment for that imposed by any sentence for such an offense, or
d. remitted the whole or any part of any sentence passed for such an offense or any penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to the State on account of such an offense.
3. The power of the President under subsection (2) may be exercised by him in accordance with the advice of a Minister designated by him, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.
Advisory Committee on Power of Pardon
88.- There shall be an Advisory Committee on the Power of Pardon which shall consist of-
a. the Minister referred to in section 87(3) who shall be Chairman;
b. the Attorney General;
c. the Director of Public Prosecutions;
d. not more than four other members appointed by the President, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
Functions of Advisory Committee
89.- 1. Where an offender has been sentenced to death by any court for an offence against the law of Trinidad and Tobago, the Minister shall cause a written report of the case from the trial judge, together with such other information derived from the record of the case or elsewhere as the Minister may require, to be taken into consideration at a meeting of the Advisory Committee.
2. The Minister may consult with the Advisory Committee before tendering any advice to the President under section 87(3) in any case not falling within subsection (1).
3. The Minister shall not be obliged in any case to act in accordance with the advice of the Advisory Committee.
4. The Advisory Committee may regulate its own procedure.
5. In this section “the Minister” means the Minister referred to in section 87(3).